Editorial — On Humility
The cool light of your computer screen glows in the impending dusk of your bedroom. Squinting at the text, which seems to be getting smaller by the minute, you scroll through yet another list of qualifications you don’t meet. You’ve been seated in the same attitude for the last hour, clicking through page after page, your heart jumping at the occasional listing that sounds relatively interesting or promising. The word “resume” has begun to look like another language. A feeling of darkness descends.
You’re looking for a summer job or internship. Widely acknowledged as one of the banes of college life, this tedious annual process can really just take the life out of your eyes. It’s exhausting looking for opportunities that will be physically and mentally tolerable as well as respectable additions to our ever-perfected resumes. The job market is tough for adults right now, so students are getting the particularly short end of the straw.
For many of us, the part of the process that’s particularly difficult is when we are asked to talk about ourselves in essay format. “What are your strengths?” they ask. “What professional skills could you bring to this job?”
It gets even worse in face-to-face interviews. Getting a job or internship these days feels more and more like selling yourself each time you do it. You’re being asked to present a completely competent and positive version of yourself, to hedge any weaknesses, to make yourself look good. It just feels dishonest.
Or does it? Is this unwillingness to boast universal? If I may venture a commentary on my own culture: I think it’s a Calvin thing.
It might not be our fault. Although not all of us are Dutch or have been raised Christian Reformed (gasp, I know!), the classic hard-working but humble and understated persona tends to wear off. We are conditioned not to broadcast our accomplishments lest we sound like braggarts.
Anonymous donations, shared authorship of documents, group paper editing sessions, attributing accomplishments to luck or grace, talking up others rather than ourselves — these are all common in the Calvin circle. Several professors have mentioned to me that Calvin students are loathe to tell you about their accomplishments.
It’s like we’re afraid to be good at something.
I’m here to tell you it’s okay. Embrace that job application’s personal essay about a time when you showed leadership in the workplace. Tell that interviewer that you are the most qualified candidate. It’s unlikely someone will accuse you of lying or hypocrisy.
Sometimes when we shy away from talking about our strengths, it can seem like false humility. We can come off as unnecessarily self-deprecating or self-righteous. There is a way to broadcast our accomplishments without bragging. Sure, it’s a fragile balance, but it’s one worth working on.
Learn to advocate for yourself, because you can’t count on others to do it for you. Don’t let that Calvinist humility overcome you. Don’t sell yourself short.